Friday, November 29, 2002

From the Reading Pile XIV: Part 1
Before I can tackle the accumulated zines and comics stacked in the milk crate on the floor by the big blue couch, I need to catch up on some unpublished reviews. Apologies to all involved, but these were penned back in July -- as well as this past Monday.

Blush #1
Published by the folks behind Draculina, this 36-page glossy fanzine focuses on visual kei, an underground Japanese music combining elements of kabuki theater, goth, glam, metal, and thrash. Editor Cameron Scholes provides a home starters kit and indies shopping guide to the music and profiles a handful of leading bands, including Syndrome, Misery, Due'le Quartz, and Cynthia. Discographies and demo tape reviews round out the issue. While I've never listened to or seen visual kei, Schole's enthusiasm is infectious and the photographs of the performers offer an interesting look at the subculture's style. One of the better esoteric fanzines I've come across in awhile. $5.95 to Draculina Publishing, P.O. Box 587, Glen Carbon, IL 62034.

Florence of Arabia #1, 2
With two years between these two 24-page issues, Hob is developing an interesting story that reminds me slightly of Donna Barr's Desert Peach work. Narrated by a disembodied head, the comics detail the misadventures of a zen firefighting instructor mistakenly sent to diffuse hostilities in Arabia. The opening sequence in #1 is excellent, and Hob's sense of humor amplifies the impact of his artwork -- more detailed in these minis than in the Therapist. #2 is slightly funnier than the first edition, as Florence acquires a not very practical camel, distills water through a snail shell to survive in the desert, and receives a mysterious message at the end. Hob combines pratfall and philosophical musing in this comic that well deserves a larger format and much less time between installations. $1 to Hob, 93 Jewel St. #1R, Brooklyn, NY 11222.

Foul #7
For the video game player also interested in T&A and violence, Foul is a 48-page glossy fanzine that combines game reviews and tips and tricks with a healthy dose of irreverence. This issue includes an interview with Steve-O from Jackass, reviews of video games mostly for the PS2 and XBox, and a "hot chick centerfold." But folks really read Foul for its humor. Featuring National Lampoon-style letters from readers, a review of a fake game highlighting the Special Olympics, and fan art of several crossdressing game characters, Foul moves beyond gaming culture and into fandom. Not sure how useful this zine is to the hardcore gamer, but it sure is a funny read. $3.95 to Multimedia Empires, 12 Sain Marks #2F, New York, NY 10003.

Last Cry for Help
I am in awe. And I think that Souther Salazar and Dave K. Teenage are my two new favorite cartoonists. This 48-page collaborative collage comic combines found photos, typewritten text, comic art, and journaling to create a messy but methodical look at life. Similar to Souther's collaboration with Saelee, I can't always tell Souther and Dave K. apart, but the comic's result is one of controlled chaos and care. Themes addressed include love, desire, robots, solitude, cats, death, drinking, funny animals, skateboarding, cute girls, alienation, and city life. While the entire comic is excellent, several pieces stand out as extremely impressive: the smoker on p. 9, the street scene on p. 12, the cereal eater on p. 17, the bird panel on p. 19, p. 34, and p. 37. Shades of Allison Cole and Ron Rege, Jr., this comic makes me want to read more of these two. Beautifully presented. $2 to Souther Salazar, 106 N. Chester Ave., Pasadena, CA 91106 or Dave K. Teenage, 568 Grandview Ave., second floor, Ridgewood, NY 11385.

The Monster That Ate Stars
A little larger than a matchbook, this 48-page photocopied comic by Souther Salazar is a silly scribbled romp through what seem to be the fantasies of a young boy. He turns into a monster, goes crazy, eats almost everything imaginable, travels to outer space, evades people who try to stop his eating spree, and plays with monkeys. Though simply drawn, Salazar's art is studied and subtle, and the comic's content captures the rambling storytelling and imagination of children quite well. Pages 6, 10, 14, and 17 are especially impressive. An excellent microcomic. $1 to Souther Salazar, 106 N. Chester Ave., Pasadena, CA 91106.

National Waste #One
With a screenprinted color cover, this 36-page, self-published comic collects about 10 pieces written and drawn by L. Goldberg of the Paper Rodeo comics collective. "National Seashore" is a surprising Bambi-meets-Frogger look at how we affect the environment. "A Victory Garden Revisited" returns to the theme; a simple gardener acquires all the trappings of a successful life. "Mean Old World," the longest story at eight pages, also has an environmental edge as we witness Mr. President "spread the seed of your invincible nation into the heavenly abyss." The more simply drawn "Why Cats Paint" considers artistic inspiration, graffiti, and the law. Goldberg's art is by turns simple and scratchy, combining a plain humor with a frenetic line. This book is most notable for Goldberg's portrayal of authority figures (including God) and environmental caution. $4 from L. Goldberg, P.O. Box 321, Providence, RI 02901.

An excellent 52-page small-press comics anthology featuring work by Allison Cole, Matt Westervelt, Lindy Groening, Patrick Theaker, Maris Wicks, and others. Styles range from the starkly simple (Wicks) to a Gene Day-like sketch from (Cybele Collins and Joe Quinones), and there's also some photography and sculpture included. Groening's four-page piece "Sock Soup" is the best story in the bunch, and the innovative use of panel flow and poetry is amazing. It's also good to see that Theaker, editor of Paean, has also got it going on. "My Favorite River" is another standout, serving up a dark yet appreciative look at the LA River. Hooray for Providence's comics scene! $6 to Paean.

Peanut Butter & Jelly
Created shortly after Souther's monster comic, he collaborated with his friend Saelee to make this 32-page mini. It's a fun, friendly, and frantic assortment of sketches, one-pagers, and stories, but most of the pieces don't go very far. Their combination of comic art and typewritten lettering has good effect, and the four-page story featuring Qwerty shows how gentle and clever the two can be. Unfortunately, I can't really distinguish between the two consistently. Regardless, I quite liked this joint comic, and I think I'd like to see more work by both. Email Saelee or send $1.50 to Souther at 106 N. Chester Ave., Pasadena, CA 91106.

The Therapist #1
Hob's surreal 24-page comic was inspired by the Couples Communication Workshop at NYU Millhauser Laboratories and at times evokes the work of Tom Hart. The premise is simple -- a therapist cycles couples through a washing machine contraption that combines the partners into one person. But it doesn't always work properly, and one couple is recombined into three childlike entities who grapple with the therapist, eventually falling into the machine to produce two therapists. I'm not quite sure what Hob's message is, but the art is clean, the wordless comic clever, and the ending a surprise. $1 to Hob, 93 Jewel St. #1R, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Though I Slumber, My Heart Is Still Awake
Printed on resume-quality paper, this 32-page mini drawn by Sammy Harkham early this year tells the story of a woodsman punished by God. The character seems to age as the comic progresses and he befriends a bird, survives a lightning strike and flood, and washes up on a heavily wooded shore. The moral of the story is ambiguous, and the protagonist ends up performing an act worse than the one for which he was originally punished. Harkham's art is beautifully well-composed, and he has several strong moments, including pp. 12, 15, 21, and 28. An awesome introduction to a creator I'm not familiar with. $3 to Sammy Harkham, P.O. Box 2316, Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2316.

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